Under the common law unlawful acts doctrine, a plaintiff is barred from recovering damages if the plaintiff was engaged in an unlawful act at the time of his injury that contributed to the injury. Texas courts require the plaintiff’s illegal act to be “inextricably intertwined” with the plaintiff’s claim. The test for whether the act is “inextricably intertwined” is whether the plaintiff could prove his claim without having to prove his own illegal act. The doctrine is based on the policy that wrongdoers should not benefit from their unlawful acts.
The Restatement (Second) of Torts and most legal scholars and courts, however, now reject the idea that a plaintiff’s tortious or criminal conduct necessarily completely bars the plaintiff’s recovery. The Texas Supreme Court recently abolished the unlawful acts doctrine in personal injury and wrongful death cases, and the doctrine’s continued viability in other types of cases now is an open question.
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